Agriculture

Agric budget inadequate, farmers want ZWL$100bn

LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

Farmers have decried the low budget allocation to the agriculture sector saying it would be difficult to resuscitate the sector and improve productivity.

Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, who presented the ZWL$421.6bn 2021 national budget, last week, allocated ZWL$46.3bn to the agriculture sector.

But players in the sector said they wanted in excess of ZWL$100bn or US$1bn to resuscitate agriculture which the government has identified as one of the key sectors to anchor the development of the economy alongside mining and tourism.

Productivity levels have considerably gone down in the past few years due to successive droughts, therefore, strong irrigation infrastructure is needed to mitigate against climate change, they said.

This has seen Zimbabwe spending close to US$800m on food imports at a time when the country is grappling with serious foreign currency challenges.

“The amount allocated (in the budget) is close to half of our requirements as we need US$1bn or ZWL$100bn to turn around the sector,” Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa told Business Times this week, adding the sector required robust irrigation infrastructure which can help farmers to produce all year round.

“The amount is not adequate to resuscitate irrigation infrastructure across the country as government irrigation rehabilitation programmes are replacing big old irrigation infrastructure with small irrigation infrastructure which can irrigate small areas.

The manufacturing sector gets 60% of its raw materials from the agriculture sector and its revival will help the resuscitation of the industry. 

Ncube said the incessant droughts have forced the government to undertake a paradigm shift in the day to day farming approach.

This has prompted the adoption of “Pfumvudza/Intwasa” farming concept among communities as a new farming business model.

The concept has several advantages including climate proofing agriculture, less erosion and higher nutrient retention as well as reduced pest infestations, among others. The government is estimating yields of two tonnes per hectare giving a total of 3.6m tonnes of grains from 1.8m subsistence farmers through the conservative programme.

However, with the national yield average at 0.9 tonnes per hectare, experts put the national output at around 1.6 tonnes. 

Government interventions in the agriculture sector are informed by the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy in an effort to achieve national and household food security and contributing towards sustainable industrial development through supply of raw materials and use of domestically produced agricultural inputs.

The strategy seeks to transform the farmer mindset from subsistence orientation to taking farming as a business with the target goal of increasing agriculture output to US$8.2bn by 2025.

Agriculture got ZWL$6.1bn provided under theZWL$18.2bn stimulus package which was meant for stimulating agriculture production.

Economist Gift Mugano said localised agriculture production can revive the economy as the sector’s value chains transcend to other sectors.

“I would like to commend the finance minister for allocating the agriculture ministry ZWL$46.3bn which is above 10% of the national budget.

However, what needs to be done now is to put into practice all those measures to ensure that production and productivity are enhanced in the farms,” Mugano said. 

Meanwhile, Chabikwa said Zimbabwe has various dams and weirs hence there was need to put irrigation infrastructure to utilise them.

The government has developed over 20 000 hectares of low-cost irrigation under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) in a bid to improve agriculture productivity levels but more needs to be done to produce enough for the country and exports.

The government is targeting 200 hectares of irrigated land per district under PSIPs in a bid to improve productivity levels per hectare. Currently, the country has 150 000 hectares of irrigable land and is targeting a total of 300 000 by 2022.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Paul Zakariya said the finance minister has done his best to tackle problems that are affecting the sector and improve productivity.

“Treasury did well to ensure that small scale farmers get a piece of their cake while irrigation infrastructure has also been set to deal with climate change. All sectors and farming categories were addressed in the budget including the commercial farmers who have their needs that differ from the small scale.

What we now need is to ensure that all programmes are implemented on the ground as production happens at the farms,” Zakariya said.

Agriculture accounts for 50% of employment, 11% of Gross Domestic Product, 25% of the country’s total exports and 60% of raw materials to the manufacturing sector. 

Finance ministry is projecting agriculture to grow by11.3% in 2021.

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